Owls, Eaglets, and Ospreys

Farmer Derek lives on the Klingenberg Farm near Newton, Kansas with his wife and daughters. His father and his three brothers are also working at the farm – it is a wonderful family endeavour. It is on this farm where the now famous hijacking of a Bald Eagle nest by a pair of Great Horned owls took place on 1 February. This family loved the eagles that lived on their land and were disappointed when the owls ousted them from their tree but now the entire family has embraced Bonnie and Clyde and their owlets. Farmer Derek’s father is going to build Great Horned Owls boxes for them this summer and we will see what happens. It is called Value Added Agriculture and Farmer Derek just gave an interview on a PBS Nova show called Market to Market. The interview begins with some chat about other things but most of it is focused on the owls. You can move the time forward or listen to it all, here:

Lots of the birds have been growing beyond belief and it is time to check in on some old friends. First off, Harriet and M15’s little ones (did I really say little?), E17 and E18. You might remember this image of little 18 in the striped donut towel and 17 having to have time out because she was so aggressive towards her sibling especially during feeding times.

E17 and E18 getting treated for AC at CROW, Fort Myers, Florida. @CROW FB

The image above shows the two little eagles at CROW. Aren’t they precious? Their eyes have been cleaned. They were crusty and covered over and permission was given by the USFWS to remove them for treatment. That was the first week in February. Their test results came back today and confirmed they had Avian Chlamydophilia psittaci or AC, for short. That is what CROW suspected based on their symptoms. It is a disease caused by a bacteria, Chlamydia psittacia. Birds catch it from other infected birds – dust, feather, droppings. The symptoms range from a cough, to the crusty eyes, or to sudden death. So glad that a system known to be so slow worked fast for these eaglets and that E17 and E18 were treated! The pair were at the clinic for five days, returned to the nest only when the bacterial infection was gone.

This is E17 and E18 being fed this morning, 16 March, some five weeks later. They now have juvenile plumage. The only way you can tell the two apart is that E18 has a white strip of feathers at the base of the tail. In the image below, E18 is in the middle and E17 is the farthest away.

Breakfast for E17 (left) and E18 (middle). 16 March 2021. @D Pritchett Eagle Cam

For a long time, E18 was the underdog but she quickly became the ‘Queen’ (or King) of the snatch and grab and grew big. When food is brought on the nest for self feeding, the majority of the time E18 mantles it and eats! Very capable and no longer intimidated. As is so often the case, if the little one survives they figure out ingenious ways to eat and they thrive. Lady Hawk (Sharon Dunne) did a video of a squirrel arriving three days ago and E18 mantling it and feeding. Here it is:

They have turned into such beautiful birds. Here they are looking out at the big world that will be theirs. They are now more than halfway to fledging.

16 March 2021. E17 (left) and E18 (right) looking out at the world of possibilities. @D Pritchett Eagle Cam

Little Legacy isn’t so little anymore either. She has overcome, on her own, Avian Pox which is fantastic. She will be immune for the rest of her life. The image below is from a week ago. Legacy still had soft down on her head but her feet were getting large and she had quite the full crop. There were jokes about her on the Internet as being a big ‘pudgy’. Oh, the benefits of being the only eaglet in the nest!

This is Legacy this morning on the nest with her mother, Gabby, waiting for a food delivery. The fluffy dandelions on the top of her head are almost all gone and now instead of grey down she is almost 3/4 covered with her juvenile plumage. They grow sooooooo fast and she is very beautiful. She copies her mother working on the nest, incubating and rolling ‘Eggie’ and will, one day add to the legacy of her grandparents, Romeo and Juliet.

16 March 2021. Legacy (left) and her mother Gabby. NEFL Eagle Nest, Jacksonville, FL. @AEF and NEFL Eagle Cam

You might remember the female Bald Eagle encrusted in snow for most of the incubation period – that was the mom over at Duke Farms. Two of the three eggs hatched and those two are growing and growing. These kids have some very different meals than Legacy who eats mostly fish (a few mammals) and many times people are left guessing what the two had for dinner. Despite a lot of prey available, there is some concern for the second eaglet who is consistently pecked down by the older at feeding time. It is the reason that I cringe when I see three eggs. Sometimes two is more than enough – and there are definite advantages to being an ‘only’ eaglet or Osprey. Fingers crossed for this little one.

It is unclear to me what precipitates the feeling of food insecurity that results in siblicide. I have printed and read all of the academic material – it is sitting in front of me – and I am still baffled by which nests experience siblicide and which do not. Are there real predictors?

The little one at Duke Farms wanted to eat and the older one kept blocking it this morning.

Older one at Duke Farms pecking and deliberately keeping little one from eating. 16 March 2021. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

So, the little one waited til the older one’s crop was ready to pop and finally got around to eat. Smart. Let us hope that this keeps up.

Yippee. Older going into a food coma. Little one eating. Well done. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

Yesterday I gave the dad, Jack, a ‘beef’. He is the mate to Diane at the Achieva Osprey nest in St Petersburg. Those osplets hatched on the 7 and 9 of March. I fully expected when the fish did arrive that there could have been mayhem because it was so late in the day and it had been so hot but – it didn’t happen. And hats off to Jack (did he hear me screaming at him), he brought in another fish later. It is entirely understandable that it was so hot that the fish went deep in the water and Jack had to wait til it cooled off to fish. Everyone was full heading to sleep and this morning at 9:35 he brought in an early morning fish. Those Osplets lined up nicely for the meals and did not bother one another at all. They ate. So maybe I will take that beef back, Jack! These are the most well behaved siblings to one another.

16 March 2021. Breakfast for the trio. @Achieva Osprey Nest

I have included the image below because you now see the beautiful reddish-brown feathers coming in on the head of the osplet closest to the front.

And he isn’t an Owl, an eaglet, or an Osprey but Izzi, the juvenile Peregrine Falcon is the cutest thing on the planet. He is inside the scrape box of his parents, Diamond and Xavier (talk about beautiful parents) and many are wondering if Izzi will ever leave. Last fall, Izzi went to sleep on the ledge of the scrape box and fludged. He was returned to the box on top of a water town on the campus of Sturt University Orange Campus, Australia. The second fledge and he hit a window and was rescued by Cilla Kinross, the researcher, and taken for care. Five days later Cilla Kinross climbed the 170 stairs to return him to the scrape box where he successfully fledged for a third time some days later. Maybe he thinks this box is his? I guess we wait to find out. Izzi loves to look at himself in the camera!

Look at those eyes. Besides their stealth speed at aerial hunting, these little falcons are adorable. Seriously I could take him home!

So glad you could join me as we check in with some of our bird friends who have been a little ignored lately. Take care of yourself. See you soon!

Thank you to Derek the Farmer, SWFL, NEFL, Achieva, Duke Farms, and Cilla Kinross and Sturt University Orange Campus Australia for their streaming cams where I grabbed my scaps.

7:46, June 12. J2 fledges.

It is the day that everyone has been waiting for – the first fledge off the Fernow light tower at the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York. The winner of the honour was J2.

J is the designation for the year, 2020. The camera began recording the activities at the nest in 2012. Knowing that Big Red had, at least, two earlier years raising successful chicks prior to the cameras, they began with the letter C in 2012. The ‘2’ is because this hawklet was the second to hatch but was, ironically, the first egg to be laid. Which if you are good at math and understand the counting indicates that this chick is actually the oldest.

J2 has beautiful blue eyes which will eventually turn darker and a wide white terminal band. Notice how the breast (or crop area) is covered with the typical peach colour for these hawks. At fledge it also had a line of ‘dandelions’ remaining on the top of its head, like a mohawk hair-cut.

J2 sitting in a pine tree across the street from the nest but within view of his mum, Big Red. Notice the little dandelions on his head. How cute! Their talons have tendons that enable them to sleep or sit standing up without fear of falling over.

J2 set a first in the recording of fledges from the Fernow Tower nest. He fledged off the back of a light box. It was, actually, more of a fludge. He/she spent some wonderful time sitting on top of the light box balancing nicely and then slipped but recovered beautifully flying under the tower, across the street, landing by its talons on Bradfield to steady itself in a nearby Ginko tree.

For nearly twelve hours, until the camera stopped rolling, J2 kept us on the edge of our chairs. I tell you it was better than a good thriller on Netflix!

He/she flew keeping the legs tucked tight like a pro. J2 spent some time on top of the Rice Building, flew back near Bradfield and played around on the steps and railings to the entrance, flew off again to another building, and finally wound up near to where it started, back in the tree. Throughout Big Red was watching from the southeast corner at the top of Bradfield while Arthur soared whenever J2 got out of sight so that the chick could be located. Nothing gets by these two parents. Parenting is a well orchestrated sharing of duties.

Big Red on the left (17 years old) and Arthur on the right (4 years old)

When I first began watching the hawks on the ledge at NY University, I naively asked the chat group what kind of dangers hawks experienced. The Washington Square group were very patient with me describing the use of rodentcides that cause blood not to coagulate as a prime poison for the hawks in the parks of NYC. This is because their primary prey are the rats of the city. And then there are cars, buses, trucks, windows, air vents between buildings -. The list was extensive.

This morning J2 flew over a street with little traffic but still the cars and buses were moving at a clip and well, who knew that he could steer itself to the safety of a tree away from the road? He/she could have also, just as easily, flown into a window. There is a box of worry beads in the chat room and I suspect most of us were helping ourselves today. The sad truth is that 1 in 3 red-tail fledglings do not live to see their first year. I hope, for these in rural New York, that is not the case.

So tomorrow will be another nail biter as we wait to see what J1 and J3 will do. Will they both fledge at the same time? on the same day but at different times? will either of them try to go over the light box like J2 or will they find some new entry way to this next stage in their life?

Stay tuned! I am now officially a hawkaholic.